QFIR student Kaj Sullivan sets off on Hugh Morris Fellowship journey

June 19, 2018

For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Kaj and I’m a second-year isotope geochemistry PhD student under the supervision of Dr. Daniel Layton-Matthews and Dr. Matthew Leybourne in the Queen’s University Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering.

What I research

My research is broadly focused on studying the isotopic fractionation of transition metals in healthy- and disease-state humans. Currently, I am researching whether a zinc isotopic response accompanies a well-documented decrease in the zinc concentration of serum in the hours following the consumption of a meal. I am also investigating whether the copper and zinc isotopic composition of serum in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients is shifted relative to a control group due to amyloid plaque formation (characteristic pathology of AD), with the purpose of investigating their potential as biological markers of the disease.

The Fellowship

This April, I was fortunate to be selected as a recipient of the Kimberley Foundation’s Hugh C. Morris Experiential Learning Fellowship and have just embarked on the first leg of my year-long journey during which I’ll work with researchers at Osaka University, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Imperial College London, and the Metrology Institute of the National Research Council of Canada. I’ll be keeping this blog on the Queen’s Facility for Isotope Research (QFIR) website to post about the work I do throughout my travels. I arrived in Osaka yesterday afternoon so expect an update on that later this week!

The Fellowship gives graduate students at Canadian universities in a wide range of disciplines the incredible opportunity to design a program of study that differs completely from any experiences offered by their home institutions. The program of study is intended to help shape the future of the award recipient and contributions to their field. I’ve designed mine to broaden my knowledge and abilities as an isotope researcher, establish relationships with top researchers in the field of isotope geochemistry, and promote and conduct innovative isotope research.

Hugh C. Morris’ journey

To start, I thought I’d provide a bit of information about the namesake of the fellowship, Hugh Morris, as it is in its inaugural year, before diving into application process for those of you who might be interested in pursuing this opportunity yourselves.

From the Kimberley Foundation website: “Born in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar) in 1932, Hugh Morris was a renowned geologist, philanthropist, industry leader, and science supporter. While studying in South Africa in the early 1950’s, Hugh was awarded the Chamber of Mines Gold Medal and Travelling Research Scholarship, which enabled him to travel across North America. On that trip, he visited more than 65% of the continent’s mines and leading research institutions, an experience that profoundly shaped his future.  The Hugh Morris Experiential Learning Fellowship was created to honour his legacy and inspire the next generation to begin their journey.”

Application process

The application process involves the development of an experiential learning program (ELP) which is a detailed description of the planned travel, site visits, industrial engagements, research laboratory visits, and/or other activities tied to a clear statement of objectives. What makes the Fellowship so unique is that there are no prescriptions for the nature of the learning program you design, but you must engage with more than one sector, be that industry, research, government, or community. While Hugh C. Morris’ original journey involved many mine site and research institution visits, due to the nature of my research and laboratory work, I designed a program of study that included fewer, more focused visits. This will give me the opportunity to spend extended periods working with researchers developing my skills and collaborating on research projects.

The submission requirements for the fellowship include:

  • A written proposal of the planned ELP (a template is provided by the Kimberley Foundation)
  • A Proposed Budget including statement of contributions (cash and/or in-kind, if any) from participating entities in the proposed ELP (a template is provided by the Kimberley Foundation)
  • A current curriculum vitae
  • Two written references from academic supervisors
  • A written Letter of Support / Invitation from each organization, research laboratory, site visit entity, and any participating government or community partners identified in the proposed Experiential Learning Program.

The application timeline for next year’s fellowship will be available in September 2018, so save the date! It’s important to reach out to the organizations you would like to work with early on to arrange the timing of your visit and also leave room for making alternative plans if the timing for a visit can’t be worked out. For more detailed information about the application process and fellowship, you can visit the Kimberley Foundation’s website at https://kimberley-foundation.org/hugh-morris-fellowship/about-the-fellowship/.

 Also, if you have any questions about my research, the fellowship, or application process, feel free to shoot me an email at 8kvs2@queensu.ca. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Until next time,

Kaj Sullivan, PhD Candidate

Queen’s Facility for Isotope Research


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